Logan Morrison’s stats in the first month of the 2016 and 2017 seasons show two completely different players and this year’s April is only halfway complete.
The Rays’ left-handed first baseman enters play on Sunday with a .325/.341/.575 slash line, three home runs (HRs) and 10 runs batted in (RBIs). On this date last year, the Kansas City, Missouri, native sported an anemic .069/.129/.069 line with no HRs or RBIs. The 29-year-old did not reach three homers and 10 RBIs until May 25 last year.
Morrison’s start is so good that if he took an 0-for-4 in all 14 of the Rays’ remaining games this month — which would be an MLB record 56 at-bat hitless streak — he would still finish with a better batting average this April (.135) compared to last (.100).
“It feels good,” Morrison told DRaysBay about his strong start earlier this week at Yankee Stadium where the Rays suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees. “Last year, [I] got off to a terrible start and I was trying to do too much and things like that.”
Joining his third team in four years last season, Morrison had every reason to feel pressure and get off to the best start possible. Since his sophomore campaign — when he went yard 23 times and drove in 72 runs for the then Florida Marlins — the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Morrison has not eclipsed a .262 batting average, 17 homers, or 54 RBIs.
But his persistence last season paid off and earned praise from his skipper — even when he sported a .094 batting average on May 1, 2016.
"He just carried himself real well. He stayed positive. He continued to be a really good teammate, pulling for the guys when he wasn't playing,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said last season (via Tampa Bay Times). “And he continued to get his work in constantly. I'm really happy for him how it turned around. And hopefully he remains hot, because we need him to.”
Cash’s expectations for Morrison haven’t changed; if the Rays hope to stay competitive, their first baseman will need to emulate his 2011 form or something close to it.
Coping with his father’s life-ending illness, the birth of his daughter Ily in September 2015 and simply experiencing success and failure in the majors has enabled Morrison to face, embrace, and overcome challenges.
“I’m just trying to keep things in perspective this year.... it's a long season,” Morrison said.
On Opening Day, Morrison flipped the narrative, going 3-for-4 while driving in three runs off Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, which included a 409-foot blast. On Friday night, Morrison launched his first career grand slam off 2016 American League Cy Young winner Rick Porcello in the Rays’ 10-5 win over the Boston Red Sox.
Despite the drastic change in early season productivity, Morrison explained to DRaysBay that he has not changed his approach or mindset: It’s actually the same thing it’s always been.
“I don’t think so, I’m really just trying to focus on the process of getting a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it,” Morrison, who missed most of last September due to surgery on his left wrist, said. “All my prep work is to get my body lose, feel good, and keep my bat in the zone a long time.
“In the game, [I] just focus on getting a good pitch to hit and barrel em’ up.”
So far, the man who goes by Cup of LoMo on Twitter isn’t just hitting those pitches, he’s destroying them.